Overstimulation and the Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur

A major challenge for the highly sensitive entrepreneur is overstimulation. Overstimulation leads to overwhelm, especially for the ‘NFP’ temperament who doesn’t have boundaries. Boundaries are essential for the health and well being of the highly sensitive individual and can even save a life. For most highly sensitive entrepreneurs, overstimulation was a childhood occurrence and they may also be the parent of a child who gets easily overstimulated and overwhelmed. Bestselling author Elaine N Aron, Ph. D writes in her book, “The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them” a chapter regarding toddlers and preschoolers adapting to change and dealing with overstimulation. This chapter is important because it gives insight into what it was like to be a highly sensitive child, especially back in the days when these sensitivities were viewed as being major weaknesses and difficulties by a nonsensitive parent or guardian. Here are a few excerpts from her book:

“Sensitive souls take in everything and ponder. Part of pondering an experience is having an emotional reaction to it. The more you ponder, the stronger the reaction, and also the more complex.”

“Your child is not alone or abnormal. Every change involves new stimulation and because HSCs pick up on more, they pick up on more that is new. A new food is not just a new food, but full of odd flavours, scents and textures.”

“HSCs, again, will experience more intensely the feelings resulting from fear that “this is forever.”

“Often the problem of overstimulation is being augmented by a sense of being powerless. “This is being done without my permission and I cannot stop it.” To feel powerless is never comfortable for a preschooler’s budding self, so eager to feel effective. In addition, the HSC may also feel, “I will be out of control because this is going to overwhelm me.”

“Remember, transitions involve complicated sensory input for a young HSC – things are the same each time but also different. It is dinnertime but maybe the smells from the kitchen are unfamiliar, meanwhile, the game that has to be abandoned was particularly compelling, drawing your reflective and creative HSC into a deep state of involvement.”

“Overstimulation, can arise from change, but also from a long or exciting day or too much noise or too many things to see. Think of your child as starting the day with a full gas tank – probably the neurotransmitter serotonin – and every experience processed, like every mile driven, draws a little.”

On page 185, in a section titled ‘ Dealing with Overstimulation,’ she gives five helpful suggestions for dealing with overstimulation:

  1. Learn to recognize quickly the first signs of overstimulation. These will differ from child to child, but usually involve overexcitement, irritability, eye rubbing, balking, whining, or refusing to eat when he ought to be hungry.
  2. Pace yourselves. Often your child can recover and go on if given a break, but without a break she cannot.
  3.  Reduce unnecessary stimulation, especially when your child will be exposed to more later – for example, on days you will take him on errands later or he will be preschool. Also, use the ideas in the previous chapter for reducing stimulation for infants.
  4.  Provide buffers whenever you can. Bug repellant for out in the country, earplugs for fireworks, dry clothes for a trip to the beach, or a playdate in the snow.
  5.  Ask others to help by keeping in mind your child’s stimulus load for the total day, especially if you are leaving your child in another’s care. Otherwise, when the two of you are reunited, you will be the one dealing with a child running on empty while you still need to take her to the dentist. And when you ask what your child has been doing, think about how much energy will be left.